How Weekend's Dodgers-Giants Series Could Force Both Teams' Hands on July 31
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This is a pretty big weekend in Major League Baseball. After all, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are playing one another, and the media has made it pretty clear at this point that their games are not to be missed.
Good luck convincing West Coasters of that, especially if you're going to try to do so at any point in the next three days. The entire Western Seaboard has a three-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants to obsess over. It's just as important as Sox-Yanks, if not 10 times more so.
One thing that's certain is that the Dodgers and Giants are more evenly matched than the Red Sox and Yankees. The Dodgers took two of three from the Giants earlier this season at Dodger Stadium, only to get swept in a three-game visit to AT&T Park in late June. Thanks to that sweep, the Giants hold a 4-2 edge in the season series.
That latter series, however, was not a fair fight. The Dodgers did not have Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier got hurt in the third and final game of the series. New third baseman/shortstop Hanley Ramirez was still an employee of the Miami Marlins.
The Dodgers will throw Kemp, Ethier and Ramirez at the Giants this weekend, who will fight back with Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong. It should be a dandy of a series.
When it's over, we'll have a much clearer picture of whom the top dog in the NL West really is. The powers that be in both front offices will get the gist too, and they'll look to take what they learned and find a way to put it to use in the final hours before MLB's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
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The Dodgers are going to be buying at the deadline no matter what. They've made that much pretty clear over the last couple weeks, and general manager Ned Colletti is nowhere close to being finished just because he added Ramirez.
It would take too long to list all of the players the Dodgers have been linked to in recent weeks, so I'll just go ahead and refer you to my Dodgers trade rumors tracker. There are few players the Dodgers aren't interested in, but for the moment they seem to be primarily focused on Chicago Cubs righty Ryan Dempster. They have also kicked the tires on the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Bryan LaHair, Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.
Their primary needs are obvious enough. In the next four days or so, Colletti will try like mad to land a starting pitcher and/or an outfielder with a good bat.
A series victory over the Giants is not going to deter Colletti. After all, even if the Dodgers sweep the Giants, they won't be in sole possession of first place in the NL West. They'll still have much to do, and the club's needs for a starting pitcher and an outfielder will remain.
If the Dodgers lose two of three or get swept, Colletti's sense of urgency will become, well, more urgent.
We'll know this happened if he stops toying with the Cubs in negotiations concerning Dempster. A recent report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hinted that Colletti was busy playing hardball with the Cubs because he knows he's holding all the cards. Dempster gave Colletti that power when he vetoed a trade to Atlanta earlier this week.
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The word around the campfire is that Colletti has put his foot down regarding the club's top prospects. He's not giving up Allen Webster for Dempster, and he's sure as heck not giving up Zach Lee. More recently, he's turned his attention to convincing the Cubs to surrender Soriano or LaHair along with Dempster, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, a stalemate has developed. Somebody's going to have to crack for something to get done, and that could be Colletti if he watches his team get beat by the Giants yet again this weekend. A fire could be lit under his posterior, and it probably wouldn't effect just his negotiations with the Cubs.
As for Giants general manager Brian Sabean, well, let's just say he's been lying low. He told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month that he'd talked to a lot of teams about a lot of players, but he said he was in no mood to make another Carlos Beltran trade.
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What could intensify after this weekend is the Giants' search for bullpen help. They've been linked to a lot of relievers, including Rafael Betancourt and Chris Perez. Most recently, Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com has linked the Giants to Seattle Mariners righty Brandon League.
If the Giants are majorly embarrassed at the hands of the Dodgers, that's when we could see Sabean get more aggressive. He could look to up the ante in the NL West by making a Hanley Ramirez-esque acquisition of his own.
Somebody like Hunter Pence would suffice, and Morosi noted on Twitter on Friday that the Giants will be interested if Pence finds his way onto the block:
Before you raise the alarm, please note that a deal for Pence would not be another Beltran trade. Beltran was a rental. Pence is under club control through next season. And since the Phillies need to clear payroll after signing Cole Hamels to an extension, there's a deal to be made there.
I'd still deem it unlikely that Sabean will go to the trouble of making a deal of that magnitude, in part because he's short on dealable assets and in part because the Giants don't have as much payroll flexibility as the Dodgers do.
But all doors will be open in San Francisco if the Giants get a reality check this weekend. They took control of the NL West while the Dodgers were down. If the Dodgers come in and beat them on their own turf, it will be clear to the Giants that the Dodgers are no longer down, and that the NL West race is going to be a dogfight to the bitter end.
And that, of course, will come down to who has bigger, sharper teeth.
So buckle up, Dodgers and Giants fans. Over the next few days, things are about to get real in the NL West.
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